Hospitals on compensation culture costs

DAMAGES claims against health trusts in Suffolk cost the NHS more than £1million last year, new figures reveal.

DAMAGES claims against health trusts in Suffolk cost the NHS more than £1million last year, new figures reveal.

A total of 25 clinical negligence claims were in the counties during 2006/07, according to figures released by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA).

One Suffolk hospital said a growing compensation culture had meant more people were now seeking “redress” for damaged or stolen property as well as clinical mistakes.

Clinical negligence figures for Suffolk show the NHSLA paid out £560,226 towards claims on behalf of West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

This amounted to £321,004 in damages to patients, with the rest made up of legal costs.

The organisation also paid out £429,406 on behalf of Ipswich Hospital, £250,501 of which was damages.

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The NHSLA was established in 1995 and is responsible for handling negligence claims made against NHS bodies in England.

Hospitals pay an insurance premium every year which is measured depending on various risk management standards and the type of hospital it is. This means they do not pay claimants directly.

Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “Compensation culture is slowly coming into hospital but it's not just about medical negligence claims it's across the board.

“I think because the hospital is part of the community and the community is part of the hospital there generally seems to be a rise in people seeking redress than in the past.

“We have very rigorous procedures in-hand to try and reduce all the possible risks. Inevitably we cannot eliminate every single risk as medicine is not risk-free.”

Nichole Day, director of nursing at West Suffolk Hospital, said the 18 claims it settled last year were most likely to have been historic, as it often took years to resolve matters.

She said: “From what I have seen, we are not seeing any increase in claims. Instead, there has been a steady flow of claims, in keeping with the risks attached to some specialisms and in line with the national picture.”

Sandra Patton, clinical negligence specialist at Thetford-based solicitors Kester Cunningham John, said the amount of damages awarded depended on the level of care or equipment needed by the victim over the course of their life.

The NHSLA was not available to comment.

N What do you think of the compensation culture? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

NHSLA clinical negligence claims 2006/2007

Number of claims Damages Total with legal costs

Ipswich Hospital 7 £250,501 £429,406

West Suffolk Hospital 18 £321,004 £560,226

Suffolk Mental Health Partnership 0 £25,000 £32,153